This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 766 words.
The following Saturday afternoon, Vera and Janet went to the photography studio in Rotherhithe. She paid for two copies of each photo, one full length in her best dress, and the other one a full-face portrait. Janet had helped with her hair and make up before they left home, and even though the photo wouldn’t be in colour, Vera used some bright red lipstick. The man in the studio said she could pick them up on Monday after work, and he would fit a nice cardboard frame around them, included in the price. “That will stop the corners turning, young lady”.
That night in her room, Vera wrote Les a letter to include with the photos. She kept it quite formal, asking after his health, and hoping he was enjoying his extra training. At the end, she signed it ‘Fond regards, Vera Dodds’. She was happy with the photos when she collected them, and slid two of them into the envelope with the letter. She had only asked for small prints, otherwise they wouldn’t fit in Les’s wallet. She showed her mum the spares, and Elsie turned and showed them to her husband. “Look, Bert. Our Vera is quite the smart young lady now”. Albert smiled, continuing to read a pile of papers he had collected from the Civil Defence. Elsie walked over to the mantlepiece, then changed her mind. “I am going to put them over the nice fireplace, the one in the parlour”.
At the end of March, Albert came home from his Civil Defence meeting pushing a big cart with the help of two friends. It was full of curved sheets of corrugated iron, something his company were flat out making thousands of. He unloaded it, carrying the sheets through into the garden with great difficulty. When Elsie and Vera came to see what he was doing, he turned and smiled. “It’s a bomb shelter. They call it The Anderson Shelter. Better to be safe than sorry, I reckon. Sad thing is, I will have to dig up me rose bushes on that side”.
On Sunday, Albert was up early, taking his spade to the ground on the right hand side of the garden. Very soon, his rose bushes were dumped, and he was up to his knees in a deep trench of dirt. He stopped long enough to enjoy a Sunday roast, downed a glass of light ale, then went back to work. By the time it was getting dark, he had excavated a huge pile of earth, and was banging the floor flat with the back of the spade. Then he covered the ground with the big sheets of iron, in case it rained. As Elsie handed him an enamel mug full of tea, he brushed the dirt from his hands. “I will have to get back to this after work tomorrow, dark or not”.
By the end of the week, Albert had constructed his shelter. It had two benches inside, and some old wood placed around to make a sort of floor. He had used all the excavated earth to cover the top, and showed his family the result of his labours. Vera and Elsie had to stoop down low to get into it, and it smelt something awful inside. Elsie, shook her head. “Albert Dodds, you are not geting me inside this thing, I’m sure”. Albert grinned. “Better than being blown to bits, old girl. Get a few blankets in here, and my old hurricane lamp, and we will be nice and cosy”. Vera held her nose, and her mum giggled.
At the end of the month, Mr Chamberlain was on the radio. He said that if Herr Hitler and his Germans invaded Poland, England would help Poland. Albert smiled. “See, what did I tell you? Those Nazis will think twice now”.
The letter from Les arrived in April, and Vera rushed up to her room to read it in private. He was very happy with the photos, and had sent her one of him, holding a rifle with a bayonet fixed on it, and a serious look on his face. It had been cut around the edge with pinking shears, and Vera immediately placed it in her keepsake box. His words were full of romance, enough to make her blush. He was easy with his compliments about her ‘sweet lips’, ‘attractive face’, and how much he liked her legs in the bigger photo. At the end, he signed it very romantically. ‘To my sweetheart, Vera. With all my love, your Les’.
Later that night, she couldn’t sleep for excitement.